Lockdown expected to last until at least mid-February - key points
- Credit: PA Video/PA Wire/PA Images
The prime minister has announced a new national lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus.
As the rollout began of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine - in addition to the Pfizer-BioNTech jab which is already being administered - the government was forced into action by the fast-spreading new variant of the Covid-19 virus.
London was already facing severe restrictions, having been placed in "tier 4" and following the decision to delay schools' reopening.
On Monday, Boris Johnson addressed the nation, announcing a lockdown - including school closures - which is expected to last until at least mid-February.
He said clinically vulnerable people will be asked to begin shielding once again and will receive letters with details.
Mr Johnson said: “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle.
“Because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.
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“And, thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight and we know exactly how we will get there.
“But for now, I am afraid, you must once again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives."
Mr Johnson said the lockdown will become law in the early hours of Wednesday, while MPs will retrospectively be given a vote after they are recalled early from the Christmas break, but the public should follow the rules immediately.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the measures are “necessary” and his party supports them, meaning that although Mr Johnson will want to minimise the scale of any Tory rebellion the Government is almost certain to win the vote.
Mr Starmer tweeted: "The coming weeks are going to be difficult, but we must all pull together to get control of the virus and get the vaccine rolled out. Stay at home, protect our NHS, vaccinate Britain."
Mr Johnson said residents can leave their homes for shopping for necessities such as food and medicine, but only as infrequently as possible.
Exercise will be allowed – preferably limited to once a day – with members of your household or support bubble or one other person from another household. Exercise should be taken locally.
People will be able to go to work if it is impossible to work from home, such as those working in the construction sector or who are critical workers. All others must work from home.
Cleaners and other trades people will still be able to work in people’s homes.
Regarding international travel, only essential journeys are permitted.
Mid-February - and enforced
The lockdown comes into force immediately and is expected to go on until the middle of February. The start of the February school half-term is scheduled for the middle of the month.
All primary and secondary schools and colleges will move to remote learning, except for the children of keyworkers or vulnerable children.
Early years settings such as nurseries and childminders can remain open, and existing childcare bubbles will be allowed to stay in place.
University students will not be allowed to return to campus and will be expected to study from their current residence.
In-person university teaching will only take place for a small number of critical courses.
Free school meals
Mr Johnson said free school meals will continue while schools are closed, winning praise from Manchester United star Marcus Rashford who previous forced government U-turns on the issue.
Places of worship
Places of worship can remain open for individual prayers and communal worship, but people should only visit with their household or support bubble.
Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals are allowed with strict limits on attendance.
All non-essential shops, hairdressers and personal care venues must close.
Supermarkets, builders’ merchants and garden centres can stay open.
Restaurants and other hospitality venues can continue delivery or takeaway, but people will not be able to add alcohol to that order.
Those who are clinically vulnerable and who were previously told to shield should stay at home and only leave for medical appointments and exercise.
They are advised not to go to work even if they cannot work from home.
Playgrounds and sports facilities
Playgrounds can stay open but outdoor gyms, tennis courts and golf courses must close, and outdoor team sports will not be permitted.
Premier League and other elite sports that already have in place strict testing regimes and their own bubbles will be allowed to continue.